How many times have you heard of a congregation referring to itself as a family? I have been thinking of the dynamics of this lately as I have worked with a number of churches that are in conflict or struggling to do ministry. Just because someone becomes a member of the family does not mean that they are made a part of the family life.
I had one man tell me he had married into the church family more than 20 years ago but had never really felt like he was accepted. He had obvious leadership skills but held no official office or leadership positions. This was in a church that the leadership told me how tired they were since they had to do all the work and there was no one else to do it. It was interesting that when this man and others were asked they were thrilled to take a leadership role.
We all know someone that has married into a family but was never really treated like family. They are invited to family functions but are not asked to be part of the decision making in the extended family. They are expected to help when something needs done and be present at all events but it is made clear that their opinions are not that important. This can go on for years without change.
In the church we have people marry into the family and we also adopt people and call them part of the family. But what are the limitations that are placed on people before they are allowed to assume leadership in the church family. Is there a need to have been there for years? Does someone have to die? Is there some ritual or level of financial commitment that need to be met before you are allowed to enter the leadership ranks?
We need to be continually looking for those that have joined in with the family but have never been made feel like a part of the family. Until we do we are missing tremendous resources that God has placed right in our midst.